Man, I cannot believe I have only a week left. And you know what? This might be the year I don’t make it.
It’s not for lack of trying. I’ve just been busy with schoolwork and, somewhat unexpectedly, moving. Because, you see, my wife and I have just bought a house. Or will have when we sign the final papers next week, and then we move like mad!
Fortunately, the house is literally down the block from our current apartment, so the move will be relatively painless, but we’ll also have the rare opportunity to spread out the move a bit, spend a little more time hauling things down the sidewalk, which is good for our backs and our schedules but isn’t so great for getting a 50,000-word novel/story cycle finished.
C’est la vie. I’ll just keep plugging away as I have time for, and we’ll see what happens.
This is what I did this week:
from Museum Stories: Leona, who longs for the food in the paintings
I started with the soup. Red and white cans of it, all in a row. Tomato, vegetable, green pea, clam chowder. The beef was tinny; the asparagus thick and sour. I saved the scotch broth for last, hoping it would taste of whisky, but it didn’t. It was small carrots and barley water, sodden ohs of pasta and gritty bits of mutton. The broth was too salty, but it was the best of the stack.
— 1962 Campbell’s Soup Cans by Andy Warhol
I moved from the pop Americans to the French a plate of peaches and green pears with a carafe of chilled white wine. All circles and oblongs, hard, clean outlines, the colors crisp but the flavors chalky. The apples kept rolling off the folds of drapery.
— 1893 Still Life With Drapery, Pitcher and Fruit Bowl by Paul Cezanne
The fish was dry but the lemon complemented it perfectly, the tomatoes a tangy sweet juice that seeped into the flaky flesh of the mackerel. The eyes staring up at me, the briny burst of them against my tongue.
I drank a tankard of clean, clear water.
–1888 Still Life With Mackerels, Lemons and Tomatoes by Vincent Van Gogh
from Library Stories: Walter, the poet who is also homeless
I’m sorry to come in like this I know how I smell. I’m sorry to come in this way I know I look a mess I just need to set awhile. Just need to set. Use the computer just need to use the computer. Need to find a job know how I smell need the bathroom just a moment. Won’t be long in the bathroom need to use the computer. I’m looking for a job. I won’t bother no one I just need to set awhile. My bones are tires, all my bones. All of them. See this one here? This here bones? This here bone is tired. I know I look a mess and I’m sorry to come in this way.
I need a job in maintenance can you help me? I can fix a car or some plumbing or refrigerators or door frames or lawnmowers too, lots of things. I done lots of things can do other things too. I can’t fix computers or work computers can you help me I can learn it? I can learn computers cause I need to find a job. I need the bathroom my bones are tired just a moment.
Just a moment. Just a moment.
You know someone who needs some tools? I got some tools I can sell them. I can use them too I need to find a job. Anything with tools I can do it, you know someone who needs some tools or someone who knows tools? I mean needs someone who knows tools can use them. I can’t use my tools on computers or electricians, electrics, elect– anything with the electricity I can’t do it, can’t do it yet but I can learn. I know I look a mess I’m sorry can you help me find some books? Need some books. Need some books on the electricity, I can learn it. I can read books on the computers — not on the computers, ha ha ha! On the computers, books on computers so I can learn them so I can find a job and use my tools. Use my skills. Skills I have skills I don’t have but I can get them I can fix a car those old cars some of the new cars some of them. I’m sorry.
I’d like an interview can you help me? I know how I smell I need the bathroom I’ll just wash up. Won’t make a mess just wash up. Get clean and keep it clean I’m sorry can you help me? Get clean so I can interview I need a job. I know the plumbing, I’ll keep it clean.
I just need to set awhile. I know I look a mess I’ll just wash up can you help me? Need a job need a job.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
from Zoo Stories: Charlotte, who gets divorced
It is not long past sunrise. I talked the zoo into letting me in more than half an hour early. A cold wind moves between the the rocks and trees but it stirs only the surface of the ponds, snakes over the run of the creek. Down in the quiet, cold water, small fish doze while above, a blue heron stalks through the waters, more tai chi than hunting.
Two of the zoo staff wade into the deeper end of the creek where the water is calmest, tools and bags slung over their shoulders, there to repair some pump.
I have come here to this removed enclosure to repair myself. Here, I am the only human being the animals aren’t used to. At home, I am the only human being still used to home, the only one willing to repair not only myself but my marriage. I am alone.
The heron looks between the tools cranking against something heavy underwater and me leaning heavy against the wooden rails overlooking the creek. The heron pulls long his neck like the unfurling of a
new bamboo leaf, leans toward the men, then collapses his tube of a neck like a hook, his head low near the water, as though to explain that the fish are small and not worth catching.
But I have come for the small. I have come for anything worth catching, even if it’s only myself.
from Park Stories: Oliver, the newspaper horoscope writer from Wisconsin
Today my horoscope reads, “Activities such as fishing, swimming, and boating are good choices for today. Find a way to work them into your schedule.” This is because I’m quitting work early and sneaking out to the lake this afternoon. I’ve invited some of the girls from advertising to come up and join me — I told them there was a party, but it’s just me up there and I’m hoping to score with at least one of them. Laila, if I had my pick. That’s why in the love category I added the line, “You are appealing to everyone today and by sundown you will have many potential admirers. Be ready for romance with that special person.” In Laila’s horoscope I wrote, “A gathering of friends will present an intriguing new partner — be adventurous and spend more time with someone you already knew but want to know better!” But she might know I just make this stuff up.
After I turn in the horoscopes, I’ll slide the paper pointer on that stupid sign they make us keep on our desks, make it point at the clipart picture of the restrooms, and then I’ll just slip out through the printing room, all those machines cycling away and thrumming so loud people can’t even see straight. I’ll slip out back, pop in that cd and blare “Spirit in the Sky” as loud as my car speakers will play it, and hit the road with the windows down and my sunglasses on.
The lake house is my grandfather’s. He was going to donate it to his church to use as a retreat, but my dad talked him out of it, some crap about a legacy for the family, a vacation home we could proudly hand down the generations. It’s a cabin, and barely that, and nothing worth handing down really, but my dad needed a place to take his girlfriend so my mom wouldn’t know he was cheating. Now my grandfather is in the hospital and my dad is down there taking care of my grandma — “It’s time to reconnect with your family,” his horoscope says; “Expect a call from long-lost relatives,” my grandmother’s horoscope says — so I know the lake house will be free this weekend.
Total word count as of this post: 24,722 words.